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Criminal Charges for Wearing Kirpan Dropped Against Sikh American in California

04/29/2008

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    Washington D.C. – Last week, prosecutors dropped criminal charges against Mr. Sahadur Singh, a Sikh American truck driver, who was arrested for wearing his kirpan (a religious article of faith) in California. The charges were dismissed after the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the nation's oldest and largest Sikh civil rights organization, intervened on behalf of Mr. Singh.

    Last December Mr. Sahadur Singh, a Utah resident, was driving in Kern County, California, when a police officer stopped him for a normal traffic violation. The police officer spotted the kirpan underneath Mr. Singh’s clothing and immediately arrested him for violating the State’s concealed weapon law and for resisting arrest when Mr. Singh tried to explain the significance of the kirpan.

    On the way to the police station, Kern County officers reportedly screamed at Mr. Singh asking him, “Are you a terrorist?”, “When was the last time you went over there, Taliban?” and “Did you ever send money to the Taliban?”

    At the request of Mr. Singh, SALDEF contacted the prosecutor in the case, sending information detailing the religious significance of the kirpan along with a list of case law documenting the dismissal of similar charges against other Sikhs across the country.

    SALDEF is currently assisting Mr. Singh in obtaining his kirpan from the local authorities. SALDEF is also working with local Kern County officials regarding the alleged racist comments made by the Kern County police officers after the incident took place.

    Over the past 12 years, SALDEF has received and resolved nearly 32 cases involving Sikhs who faced criminal charges for wearing their kirpans.

    SALDEF thanks the Kern County Prosecutor's office for being receptive and understanding about the significance of the Sikh kirpan and deciding not to prosecute this case.

    If you have been arrested for wearing your kirpan or if you believe you have been the victim of any form of racial or religious discrimination, please contact SALDEF’s toll-free hotline at 1-877-917-4547 or email: [email protected].

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